Pulmonary capillaritis: a possible histologic form of acute pulmonary allograft rejection

J Heart Lung Transplant. 1998 Apr;17(4):415-22.


Acute rejection after lung transplantation occurs commonly and is usually characterized histologically by a perivascular mononuclear infiltrate. We report five cases of pulmonary capillaritis with a histologic appearance distinct from typical rejection, occurring in patients ranging in age from 18 to 45 years, with a variety of underlying diseases including alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency, pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Four of the five patients had alveolar hemorrhage histologically, and two had frank hemoptysis. Time of onset ranged from 3 weeks to many months after transplantation. Three cases were fulminant, and there were two deaths. In only one case, with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bronchitis, could infection be established. All were treated with intensification of immunosuppressive therapy. Plasmapheresis was carried out in two cases and coincided with temporary improvement, but its efficacy was questionable because of concurrent immunosuppressive therapy. Two had recurrent biopsy-proven acute rejection within 6 weeks of treatment, and one had recurrent severe pulmonary hemorrhage that abated with total lymphoid irradiation. Our experience suggests that pulmonary capillaritis in lung transplant recipients can be an acute, fatal illness with the potential for recurrence in the survivors. We speculate that it represents a form of acute vascular rejection. Early pathologic diagnosis and aggressive immunosuppressive therapy are recommended. Although a humoral component was not documented, the possible response to plasmapheresis requires continued evaluation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / surgery
  • Capillaries / pathology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / surgery
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / pathology*
  • Hemoptysis / pathology
  • Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / surgery
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Lung / blood supply*
  • Lung Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Lung Transplantation / pathology*
  • Male
  • Methicillin Resistance
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasmapheresis
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / surgery
  • Recurrence
  • Staphylococcal Infections
  • Transplantation, Homologous
  • Vasculitis / pathology*
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin Deficiency / complications


  • Immunosuppressive Agents